Roe v. Wade, Then v. Now

Thirty Years in the Life of the American Woman

Three decades ago this week, when the Supreme Court made abortion a right instead of a cause of death, women still couldn't get credit cards in their own names, never mind call themselves "Ms.," and the old salts at McSorley's were just getting used to sharing bar stools with the womenfolk. There were no female senators, one commercial airline pilot, and two FBI agents. Sarah Weddington, the young attorney who argued Roe v. Wade, learned of her January 22, 1973, victory from a reporter. She was notified officially by telegram—collect. We've come a long way, sort of . . .


Age at which attorney Sarah Weddington began working on Roev. Wade, in 1971: 26

Number of women's rest rooms in the Supreme Court lawyers' lounge then: 0

Number of psychological evaluations California required before 1973 to prove a woman's incapacity to bear a child and thus sanction an abortion: 2

Percentage of U.S. counties without an abortion provider in 1973: 84

Percentage without a provider today: 87

Number of abortion-related deaths in 1965: 200

Number in 1973: 48

Percentage of women having abortions in 1973 who were already mothers: 45

Percentage now: 60

Inflation-adjusted cost of an abortion in 1973: $350

Cost today: $375

Years after Roev. Wade that Congress cut Medicaid funding for abortion: 3

Chance in 2003 that an OB-GYN residence program requires first-trimester abortion training: 12 percent

Chance that the chief resident has never performed the procedure: 47 percent

Chance that a woman travels 50 or more miles to obtain an abortion: 1 in 4

Chance that she travels more than 100 miles: 1 in 12

States restricting access to abortion in 1973: 0

Number in 2003 that require pre-abortion counseling and a waiting period: 18

Number that require parental consent or notification for minors: 32

Number that have authorized "baby drop-off" locations, where unwanted infants can be relinquished without legal reprisal: 41


Number of abortion-related murders since 1973: 7

Murder attempts: 17

Clinic bombings: 41

Bomb threats: 570

Acid attacks: 100

Letters threatening anthrax attacks: 654

Death threats: 353

Clinic blockades: 686

Demonstrator arrests: 33,830


Median age of brides and grooms in 1973: 20.6, 22.5

Median ages today: 25.1, 26.8

Average age of mother at first birth, then and now: 21.4, 25

Current maternal mortality rate, per 100,000 live births: 7.5

The last year maternal mortality decreased: 1982

C-section rate in 1973: 8 percent

In 2003: 25 percent

Women's lifetime risk of developing invasive breast cancer in 1973: 1 in 11

Risk today: 1 in 8


Percentage of women aged 25-35 with at least a bachelor's degree now: 28.7

Of men: 26.2

Percentage increase for women since 1973: 26

Chance that a woman over 25 in 1998 had graduated high school: 83 percent

Chance in 1970: 53 percent

Chance that a black woman in 1970 had graduated: 32.5 percent

Chance in 1998: 76.7 percent

Ratio of women to men enrolled full-time in college or university in 1975: 74:100

Ratio today: 124:100

Women as percentage of medical students this year: 45

In 1973: 19

Women as percentage of law students this year: 50

In 1973: 22.5


Average annual difference of female lawyer's salary from that of male colleague: -$20,000

Percentage of lawyers who are women of color: 3

Percentage of female lawyers who say harassment is a problem in the workplace: 75

Percentage who make a complaint: 10

Percentage of legal professionals who are female: 30

Of federal district and appellate judges: 18

Of law firm partners: 15

Of law school professors: 20

Of law school deans: 10

Chance that a woman of color is a law partner: 1 percent


Number of top 100 films in 2001 directed by men: 96

Number whose writers were exclusively male: 87

Number whose cinematographer was female: 1


Number of women-owned businesses in 2002: 6.2 million

Number of employees: 9.2 million

Revenue generated: $1.15 trillion

Number of female Fortune 500 CEOs: 6

Percentage of media, telecom, and e-company top executives who are women: 3

Ratio of female executives who don't have children to male executives who do: 1:1

Women as percentage of labor force in 1973: 38.9

Today: 46.6

Median earnings of women 15 and older who worked full-time last year: $29,215

Of men: $38,275

Women's earning power compared to male dollar in 2003: 76 cents

In 1973: 57 cents

Percentage of cashiers in 2000 who were women: 78

Percentage of dental assistants: 98.1


Percentage of women today who say they would not vote for a woman running for president: 16

Percentage of men: 17

Chance that a woman calls herself a feminist: 1 in 5

Chance a man does: 1 in 7

Number of CBS stations in 1973 that refused to carry a rerun of the Maude abortion episode: 39

Percentage of Americans today who identify as pro-choice: 47

As pro-life: 45

Percentage in 1975 who believed abortion should be "legal in all cases": 20

Percentage in 2001: 26

Current percentage of Americans who would oppose overturning Roev. Wade: 67


Number of girls playing high school sports, 1973: 1,300,169

Today: 2,784,154

Number of boys playing today: 3,921,069

Percentage of women's collegiate teams coached by women in 1973: 90

In 2002: 46

Percentage of new coaching jobs in women's athletics since 2000 filled by men: 90

Average number of women's teams per NCAA school in 1970: 2.5

In 2002: 8.4


Percentage of women in law enforcement, 1973: 2

Percentage today: 12.7

Number of women incarcerated, on parole, or on probation in 2002: 1,040,000

Percentage who are women of color: 66


Number of battered-women's shelters in 1973: 1

Number in 2003: 2000-plus

Number one cause of injury to women today: domestic violence
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